Monday, December 30, 2019

徳川町 如水 (Josui in Nagoya)

徳川町 如水

Top-level Nagoya ramen at Josui. This is considered a legend shop by many Japanese ramen critics, and I have to agree. Sea salt from Okinawa flavors a rich chicken broth with tender chashu. The soup at Josui strives for a sozai (素材-natural) umami flavor.

Despite the fame of this one bowl, Josui offers a long list of choices. Shio and shoyu, but also one spiked with garlic, a tantanmen, and a bunch of small rice bowls. Next time I'm here, I'm going tantanmen for sure.

Really fantastic stuff.

It is hard to classify this one. Is it light or heavy? East or West? Let's just call it a Nagoya original.

It's also of note that Josui opened a shop in Torrence, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. Many people have recommended it to me, though it is low on my list of shops to try in America. To be honest, even if it is amazing I would rather hunt out shops that are originally American when I visit America and originally European when I visit Europe. Please let me know if it is as incredible as people say.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

らーめん 半熟堂 (Hanjukudo in Kariya, Aichi)

究極の北京飯・らーめん 半熟堂

Kariya may not be Nagoya proper, but this local shop serves up some spicy Taiwan mazesoba. Considered the most famous noodle export of Japan's third-largest city in recent years, noodles get together with ground meat, raw garlic, and a bit of fat. No soup allowed. The side menu at Hanjukudo includes a bowl of Peking meshi, a local rice dish topped with scrambled egg, fried pork, and a sweet sauce.

Plenty of Engrish here.

Spicy minced pork and plenty of garlic in this bowl of Nagoya soul food.

Mix it up and go to work. You WILL stink after.

The side menu here includes 北京飯. Peking meshi was created at a nearby shop for a television contest. Local castle towns all created their own casual gourmet dish, and this was one of the winners. Rice is topped with a fluffy fried egg, then topped with battered and fried slices of pork, then topped with a sweetened soy sauce. It is, as you expect, good eats. Even if you don't come here for ramen, you might want to pop in for a bowl of this. Just sayin.

Official site here.

Monday, December 23, 2019

萬珍軒 (Manchiken in Nagoya)


Egg drop ramen (玉子とじラーメン) is unique, which is a surprise when you try this famous shop in Nagoya. The shop is huge, doing what I estimate at more than 500 bowls a day in this cavernous 65-seater. Thin noodles pull up bits of the egg, bits of fat, and tons of flavor. It's truly its own style.

Golden hardboiled eggs?

If you crave a little spice, the tantanmen is pretty much just a spicy version of the normal bowl.

Decadent, fluffy, scrambled egg.

Pork bones and Nagoya Cochin (a specialty breed of chicken) are boiled together for the soup. The shop is descended from a yatai place, hence the rough-ish junky nature. Love it.

Manchiken began in 昭和四三, which I think is 1968. Apart from the ramen, gyoza and fried rice are there for the hungry.

Official site here.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Toki Underground in Washington, D.C.

Toki Underground

I needed a break from the shikomi (仕込み means prep work) at the popup we were doing in Washington DC. Luckily, there are a few things to do.

Can't escape Kusama. I've seen her work in exhibitions in half a dozen countries.

Art is good, especially when it is in a ramen shop. Toki Underground is full of colorful pop art, stickers, and various skate culture beauty. The chef/owner built this place with heavy influence from his youth spent in Japan and Taiwan.

Hence the eclectic menu. Apart from a range of ramen, there are bao buns, kimchi, and dumplings. The ramen includes miso, tsukemen, soupless dandanmen, and what I chose, the shop's tonkotsu ramen.

Kickass. Although the chashu is a bit different, and the green onions a bit different, and the egg a bit different, this one was really satisfying. I say different, but that is just comparing this bowl to a Kyushu tonkotsu ramen. What Toki Underground serves up is their own version. Nothing out of place (I really don't like corn in my tonkotsu ramen). I hope to come back and try a few more here. Someday.

Official site here.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Mugiane x Little Pearl Popup in Wahsington, D.C.

Mugiane x Little Pearl Popup in Washington, D.C.

For the second time, I helped bring a ramen shop from Japan overseas for a popup event. This time was with Muginae, one of Japan's most famous and celebrated shops in recent years. Two hour waits every day, number one on Tabelog, Michelin status, I was actually surprised they agreed to come. Aren't they ramen celebrity in Japan? Though we look up to chefs who have achieved such status, in the end, they are just normal people. To Aki and Jun, the two behind Muginae, an overseas adventure was an opportunity they jumped at.

We were hosted by Little Pearl, one of the restaurants helmed by chef Aaron Silverman in his Rose's Group.

The menu was half Little Pearl and half Muginae. Ramen ingredients smuggled over from Japan alongside a fun menu of Northeastern-style onigiri and yuzu ice cream.

Ramen requires large pots, and the one on the right was too small for our needs. Luckily, giant stock pots aren't so hard to come by.

Beautiful sous vide chicken chashu. We also served pork belly and pork loin chashu. When you go overseas, you need to load people up with tasty meats.

Noodle supplied by Shimamoto Seimen in New York. Sorry, I suppose the American name of the company is Shimamoto Noodle Company. 

I am learning a lot about how overseas people truly view ramen when I do these events. To be honest, the reception was less than I expected. Online reservations sold out in minutes, but the walk-in seats, of which there were plenty, felt like less than a dozen. People told me later that D.C. people don't go out without a reservation. Compared with the popup I did in Copenhagen, with a line around the block, this was a totally different scene.

Little Pearl served up some funky rice balls made with local crabs and Old Bay seasoning as well as a kind of shimp wasabi ceviche dish.

The ramen was, like Muginae in Tokyo simple on the outside but deep and complex within. A list of ingredients included:

  • Craft soy sauce from Hyogo, Niigata, and Saitama.
  • Katsuo from Kagoshima.
  • Niboshi from the Seto Inland Sea.
  • Shitake mushroom from Oita.
  • Nori from Aichi.
  • Menma from Fukuoka.
We brought the goods.

The meats were better on the second day. Shhhh, don't tell those who came on day one.

Fantastic event. Stay tuned for more info about a possible repeat.

Bringing the ramen love to the world.

Huge thanks to everyone involved. And a huge thanks to the Ramen Adventures fans who came out to support it. Ya'll the best!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Bantam King in Washington, D.C.

Bantam King

Bantam King is a chicken ramen joint in Washington, D.C. The name comes from their location, in an old Burger King restaurant. They kept the shop looking very BK, and even designed their logo to match. Fun stuff.

My second time in D.C. The portrait museum is incredible. A must-visit.

Of course, you can't serve ramen without cheap sake. I'm not so critical on my site, but most of these are ones I wouldn't drink. Except for the Otokoyama. A sake from Asahikawa, Hokaido. I love the stuff. The price of $14 is a bit high, but this is coming from someone who lives near the source.

Totally a cool shop, designwise.

The ramen is ok.

My opinion was affected heavily by what I saw near the door.

Delivery ramen. I understand that it is a business choice, but to me this is gross. Microwave your ramen, drop in the partially boiled noodles. Microwave again. To me, it is as bad as taking half of your unfinished bowl home, something which many ramen shops allow. 

So there you have it. I completely understand that it is a business decision, and quite normal in America. You do you, it's all good.

At Bantam King, they also serve fried chicken. A quick google search shows it is both "the place to eat this weekend" and "an essential shop in DC."

Ok, despite my rather blah impressions, this is a unique spot and worthy of a slurp if you live in D.C. I am 100% sure that my opinion was affected by the bags of delivery ramen sitting by the door, noodles becoming stale as they waited for the Uber Eats driver to arrive and deliver them to some senator who could care less.

Official site here.